One of the top Democrats in the incoming House majority just called on the Department of Justice to closely re-examine its opinion regarding the possible indictment of a sitting president when overwhelming evidence of criminal behavior comes to light, claiming justice and constitutional intent would be ill-served by setting the president above the rule of law.
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Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the presumed incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, appeared on CNN‘s State of The Union this morning and discussed the path forward after the post-midterm revelations implicating President Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator in the commision of felony campaign finance crimes, among the many other allegations he’s currently facing.
“I think we should always reconsider laws and regulations, and this is one we definitely should reconsider,” Representative Cummings (D-Md.) told host Jake Tapper.
The current guidelines followed by the Justice Department assume that a president currently holding office is immune from indictment and prosecution apart from the impeachment procedures outlined in the Constitution.
The constitution itself, however, does not explicitly grant the head of the executive branch of government any specific immunity from criminal prosecution while in office, perhaps because of a belief by its creators that the principle of no citizen being above the rule of law would be an unassailable assumption that no one would even think of challenging.
Some legal experts, therefore, believe that the Justice Department opinion in this matter is due for a court challenge, and Rep. Cummings agrees as Democrats prepare to take charge and launch a multiplicity of long-overdue investigations into the Trump administration’s blatant corruption. His sentiments were echoed by another leading incoming committee chairman, Representative Adam Schiff, who will take over as the head of the Intelligence Committee in January.
“I think the Justice Department needs to reexamine that OLC opinion, Office of Legal Counsel opinion, that you cannot indict a sitting president under circumstances in which the failure to do so may mean that person escapes justice,” Rep. Schiff told CNN earlier this week.
Congressman Cummings revealed that he plans to call former Trump attorney Michael Cohen to testify before his committee as soon as he takes over the chairmanship.
“I am hoping that Mr. Cohen will come before the Congress, where he can tell the American public exactly what he has been saying to Mueller and others without interfering with the [Robert] Mueller investigation,” he told Tapper.
Rep. Cummings stopped short of promising an immediate push for impeaching the president, preferring to wait for the Special Counsel’s office to release the full results of an investigation that has only seen highly-redacted tantalizing tidbits released in a piecemeal fashion as plea deals and sentencing memos are made partially public.
“Our major thing right now is to let Mr. Mueller, who I have a tremendous amount of respect for, do his job,'” Cummings implored. “Let him complete his job. Then we take a look at what he says and go from there. I think it’s actually premature right now to do that. But the evidence is certainly powerful enough. I think the president knows that.”
So does anyone paying close attention to what is going on. It explains the president’s increasingly desperate denials, lies, and preemptive attacks on an investigation getting closer and closer to a truth he doesn’t want to be revealed. It’s only a matter of time now.
We can only hope that Trump doesn’t get so desperate that he engineers a distraction so large and dangerous that it will pry the eyes of the public from the mountain of incriminating evidence piling up on his doorstep.
You can watch Jake Tapper’s interview with Congressman Elijah Cummings on CNN‘s State of The Union in the video clip below.
“This is one we definitely should reconsider,” Rep. Elijah Cummings says, agreeing with Rep. Adam Schiff that the Justice Department should reconsider guidelines that exist that say that a sitting president cannot be indicted. #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/qzTiBPFANU
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) December 16, 2018
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Original reporting by Alicia Cohn at The Hill.